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SP Links June 26 — Plenty on cash transfers and health, including HIV/AIDS and tropical diseases; why are cash impacts mixed on adolescents; sobering evidence from Ethiopia on graduation; social pensions in Tanzania; cash grants for Syrian refugees in Lebanon; social protection for migrant workers; proposal for a UBI in Mongolia; food subsidies in Bangladesh; 3 new safety net blogs; guidance and data on humanitarian assistance; the Covid effects in urban Africa; and much more…

What do we know about “what works” for orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS? Thomas et al reviewed 74 articles including psychosocial, cognitive, social protection (in the form of cash transfers), and community-based interventions. What did they find? In their words, “… social protection interventions tended to have the best outcomes when considering both overall effect size and the proportion of outcomes that were significant. In addition, [they] had positive effects on a broad range of outcomes, including cognitive, education, health behavior, and psychosocial outcomes” (h/t Amber Peterman).

More health-related research: leprosy, a neglected tropical disease, affects 200k+ people per year and can cause severe disabilities. Can cash transfers help? Pescarini et al show that in Brazil, receiving Bolsa cash transfers before diagnosis led to better leprosy treatment adherence (22% increased odds) and cure (+26%). Results are especially relevant for patients with multibacillary disease, who are treated for a longer period and have lower cure rates than those with paucibacillary illness.

Moving to a particular age cohort, why do cash transfers exhibit mixed effects on adolescents’ health and social outcomes? A short commentary by Pozuelo et al concludes that, among the factors, “… [programs] have not taken into account the many biological, cognitive, and social changes that occur during this transitional period, thus failing to incorporate a developmental perspective in the design.”

Let’s keep discussing health by zooming into a country. In Ethiopia, Hirvonen et al estimate that only 10-22% of PSNP families receive health programs – given the high rates of health expenditures among beneficiaries (see figures 1 and 2), there is a compelling case for more programmatic convergence between health and social protection.

From Ethiopia to Tanzania! Khalfan et al estimated that, among others, a social pension for a size of 15% of GDP per capita to those 70+ years old would reduce poverty from 30.4% to 23.8%. Various financing options were explored adjusting the tax bands in the income tax schedule.

… and back to the Ethiopia PSNP! A sobering paper by Sabates-Wheeler et al examines the long-run effects of the PSNP on ‘graduation’ of beneficiaries over a decade of implementation. They conclude that “… while [the PSNP] served to save lives and promote food security, it has not delivered on building resilient livelihoods”.

Speaking of long-term, Chaaban et al measure the short and longer-run (more than 12 months) impacts of a relatively large cash transfer on Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The transfer (of about $175, or 6 times higher than standard amount) improved multiple dimensions, such as food security (food expenditures and dietary diversity), health (+8.3 pp in accessing health care), and employment (women the option to leave the labor force and avoid risky and low-paying jobs). However, most impacts faded away within 4 to 10 months after program discontinuation (h/t Francesca Bastagli). Bonus on forced mobility: the Minderoo Foundation has a database and new paper on cash transfers in the context of human trafficking issues. Double-bonus on (unforced) mobility: the ILO has a new ‘spotlight’ on social protection and migrant workers.

Any news from Asia? Mongolia’s experience with UBI in 2010-2012 wasn’t exactly successful: Namkhaijantsan and Mihalyi are now proposing to nationalize the coal industry and give every citizen shares in the company that pay UBI-type dividends.

Let’s switch from cash transfers to in-kind food. In Bangladesh, the Food Friendly Program provides subsidized rice to 5M households at a cost of about $300M. How does it work? New evidence by Chowdhury et al shows that only 86% of beneficiaries receive the full amount of rice (60kg). Bonus: Leach et al have a fascinating review arguing that food is fundamentally a cultural and political matter.

And from food to vouchers: in the US, Haley et al show that 11.4% of adults in immigrant families with children reported avoiding a safety net program (SNAP, WIC, or school lunches) out of fear of immigration-related consequences.

Three great safety net blogs! Ajayi and Heinemann call for innovation and learning on designing social protection programs to empower women; Gilligan articulates how to make safety nets more effective in Covid response; and Davidovic et al discuss mobile payments during the pandemic.

What’s happening on the humanitarian front? CaLP has updated its guidance on cash and voucher programming in humanitarian settings, lots of good resources and tips there! O’Brien lays out ‘10 things you always wanted to know’ about shock-responsive social protection. And do you need trends and figures for tracking humanitarian and development flows in the pandemic? The Center for Disaster Protection has a great slide deck and blog by Hill et al – lots of juicy stuff and some good news on timeliness of support!

Speaking of crises, a new report by UNHABITAT et al sheds light on Covid in African urban areas. For instance, it shows that in Kenya, 81% of slum residents have already suffered complete or partial loss of their jobs and incomes due to pandemic.

Final assorted mix: as Rodrick put it, Acemoglu joins the financial globalization skeptics; a NYT piece by Edsal discusses the US “epidemic low-wage problem”; and two great open access resources are now available, namely Cramer et al’s book “African Economic Development” and Ravallion’s “On Measuring Global Poverty” paper in the Annual Review of Economics.